As part of an ongoing commitment to safeguarding children, youth and the vulnerable in its churches, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon has published a Safer Church, Stronger Communities safeguarding action plan featuring 20 commitments aimed at preventing and responding to abuse by clergy or others in the church. Copies of the plan will be distributed to parishes beginning at the Cathedral of the Holy Family March 14-15 and will be handed out in parish bulletins at other parishes across the diocese in the weeks ahead.
Download the Safer Churches, Stronger Communities safeguarding action plan: PDF
Reporting abuse: Contact information
The four-page Safer Churches, Stronger Communities action plan reflects the recent work of a diocesan Safeguarding Committee (consisting of eight lay Catholics and one diocesan priest), chaired by Brenda FitzGerald.
The Safeguarding Committee was established by Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen two years ago, to review and update the diocese’s long-standing policies related to safeguarding and abuse.
“We have all seen the news articles about cases and allegations from around the world about sexual abuse by clergy, past and present — with this report we wanted to explain how our own local Catholic community is responding to this important issue,” says Safeguarding Committee Chair Brenda FitzGerald. “The bottom line is that we are committed to do all we can to make our churches safe for all, and to heal the hurt caused by the crime of sexual abuse.”
She adds: ““Our diocesan Safeguarding Committee is made up of members of our church community from all walks of life. Each and every one of us are committed to safeguarding children and vulnerable persons in our church environments, and to responding with compassion and sensitivity to anyone who comes forward with allegations of serious misconduct, including sexual abuse.”
In the new four-page action plan, as well as in video updates and elsewhere, Bishop Mark Hagemoen has invited anyone who has experienced abuse in the church to come forward, and has apologized for the hurt and trauma that survivors have experienced.
“The violation and victimization by any members of the church, and most specifically any of its clergy, of the young and vulnerable by leaders and pastors of the faithful whose priority is to embody by their lives the truth and way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a tragedy,” says Hagemoen. “We must bring all of this to the light, and find our way forward finding the same mind, heart, and way as Christ Jesus.”
As part of its work, the diocesan Safeguarding Committee has reviewed and updated diocesan policies for ensuring safe church environments, focused on increasing awareness about the impact of sexual abuse on survivors, and clearly outlined steps for handling allegations of serious misconduct — including sexual abuse – by clergy or others working in the church.
Training and updates on the issue and on diocesan policies are being provided to leaders and parishioners across the diocese, and have included in-service sessions for clergy and parish leaders, video updates to the faithful about the policies by Bishop Hagemoen and Brenda Fitzgerald, and training sessions open to all interested in November/December 2019. The 20-point safeguarding action plan is the latest step in the diocesan effort to clearly inform the faithful and the community at large about commitments to safeguarding children and vulnerable persons from abuse.
In addition, Bishop Hagemoen has recently launched an Historic Case Review Committee, chaired by Bob Loran, working independently of the bishop’s office. This committee will review historical cases involving the abuse of children and vulnerable adults by clergy in the dioceese, including those who have died, to determine whether such cases were handled appropriately. “I look forward to receiving the results of this new committee’s work, and to communicating their recommendations and our response in the near future,” said Hagemoen.
“It is my goal to hold the bar very high in assuring that all our churches are safe and respectful communities,” says the bishop. “We are taking this issue seriously.”